Deputy Sheriff John Middleton

Deputy Sheriff John Middleton

Harlan County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky

End of Watch Monday, August 16, 1943

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John Middleton

Deputy Sheriff John Middleton was shot and killed by a man who was collecting snakes to use at an upcoming church service.

Kentucky law prohibited snake handling at church services. When Deputy Middleton confronted the man about his activities he was shot and killed. The subject who shot him was arrested and charged with murder. Another man who provided the gun was charged an accessory to murder.

Two months later the 30-year-killer, ex-convict turned minister, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life.


  • Age 42
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Sentenced to life

Most Recent Reflection

View all 5 Reflections

This story is not correct. I am the great niece of John Middleton. He died in front of the Evarts Drug Store, not in Kenvir. My dad, his nephew, was 8 years old at the time and was in the vehicle with John when he was shot in the head. The gunman also tried to shoot my dad, but the gun didn’t go off. The gunman then ran into the drug store and bragged that he had shot John Middleton and said he tried to shoot “that kid” but the gun wouldn’t go off. He then fired the gun and it went off in the drug store. He went to jail then and was convicted of John’s murder. I have the original Harlan Daily Enterprise article on it and my dad was a living witness. Several other witnesses there recounted this same story to me, after I was grown. Thank you for honoring him, but please correct this article, as this is part of Harlan County, KY history.

Celia Barley Joyce
Great Niece of John Middleton

November 25, 2021

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